In the midst of many reports warning that America is losing its religion, a recent Wall Street Journal report contends such arguments could be "overwrought," as evangelical churches continue to grow.
Even though many mainstream Christian churches in the United States are downsizing – including Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist and Catholic churches – the WSJ article reports that Christianity is far from dead in America.
"A religious renewal could be on the horizon," WSJ's Ericka Anderson asserts in her column, stressing that "unreported data" shows nondenominational evangelical churches have grown from 54,000 in 1998 to 84,000 in 2012 – a 55% uptick.
Proof is in the research
Even though the number on "nones" in America – those who declare no religious affiliation, including atheists – continues to rise, evangelicals and those identifying as adherents of Islam are surpassing their growth rate.
"[E]vangelical Protestants and Muslims are increasing in number, [as Christian and Muslim birthrates] outpace those of the nones," Anderson notes. "[R]eligion in the U.S. is far from dead. A selection of churches may be dying, but their replacements are alive, well and regenerating in ways the American Church has never seen before."
Recent research from academic scholars supports Anderson's analysis that the plummet of religion in other advanced industrialized nations is not reflected in America, where evangelicals are an exception – and burgeoning in numbers.
"The secularization thesis asserts that – as a result of ongoing modernization and the advance of science – religion will become increasingly irrelevant in public and private life," researchers Landon Schnabel and Sean Bock from Harvard declared in a 2018 Harvard and Indiana University report. "[Rather than symmetric decline across all levels of religiosity], religious change in the United States could be driven by a decline of moderate religion."
Those who have deep and devoted relationships with God are on the rise, while the numbers of those who report religion as playing a less central role in their lives are on the decline.
"This general trend also holds true for specific religious practices, such as prayer and church attendance," Breitbart News reports. "There has been an upward trend in the proportion of the American public who report praying multiple times per day, which corresponds to a decline in the less frequent prayer categories."
Rather than traditional churchgoers determining the spiritual climate in the U.S., evangelicals from non-mainline churches are regarded as being a better gauge of the state of Christianity in America.
"[Statistics indicate that] intense religionists will increasingly define religion in the United States and that this religious makeup is – and will continue to be – unique compared to other wealthy, secularizing countries," Schnabel and Bock wrote.
"The rise of the unaffiliated is due solely to a dramatic decline of the moderately religious. [Because strong affiliation remains stable, while weaker affiliations have declined], those with a strong affiliation actually make up a larger share of the affiliated population over time."
This synopsis was corroborated by a nationwide survey conducted late last year.
"Similarly, a study that the Pew Research Center published in October 2019 found that over the last decade, the percentage of Protestants describing themselves as evangelical or 'born again' has risen from 53 percent in 2009 to 56 percent in 2019," Breitbart notes in another recent report.
However, when comparing Christians who devoutly go to church throughout the year with believers who attend services once in a while, the less devoted group turned the tables over the past decade and now outnumbers the former.
"In 2009, regular worship attenders – those who attend religious services at least once or twice a month – outnumbered those who attend services only occasionally or not at all by a 52%-to-47% margin," the Pew report revealed late last year. "Today, those figures are reversed; more Americans now say they attend religious services a few times a year or less (54%) than say they attend at least monthly (45%)."